October is Let’s Talk Month, and the Tennessee Department of Health and local organizations are encouraging parents and caregivers to take part in the annual campaign that empowers parents to take advantage of teachable moments every day to talk with their family about healthy relationships.
Let’s Talk Month, a national public education campaign coordinated by the nonprofit group Advocates for Youth, provides an opportunity for community agencies, schools, parent groups and healthcare providers to share facts, advice and tips that will help parents grow more comfortable talking about challenging topics like sexual activity.
According to the health department, watching a TV show, experiencing the birth of a child or hearing a song with suggestive lyrics are all moments parents and their children can use to discuss sexuality.
Let’s Talk Month aims to promote healthy communication between parent and child, and local organizations have joined the discussion to promote healthy relationships and spark those conversations.
Children’s Advocacy Center
Joyce Prusak, executive director for the Coffee County Children’s Advocacy Center, emphasized the importance of conversation and being comfortable to talk with children about any subject.
The advocacy center serves children who are victims of severe abuse through prevention, education and intervention.
“Don’t be afraid to talk openly with them about their bodies,” she said. “Talk to them about safe and unsafe touches. If a child feels that there is shame attached to certain body parts, he or she may be reluctant to talk about those parts and/or what may have occurred. Also, be sure to make it clear to your children that they can talk to you about anything.”
Blue Monarch provides a long-term, residential community for women and their children, and it aims to break adverse cycles and rebuild families.
The organization assists women who are dealing with addiction and domestic violence. Blue Monarch provides therapeutic environment for individuals and families to achieve sobriety and enhance mother and child relationships.
The programs at Blue Monarch emphasize the importance of parenting and children, said Susan Binkley, founder and president of Blue Monarch.
“Our unique Parenting Sober program is designed to help mothers who have never parented their children sober to have the tools they need to do this effectively for the first time,” Binkley said. “Otherwise, the pressures of single parenthood could easily become a trigger for relapse.”
It is essential to break destructive cycles so that behavior will not continue in the family tree, said Binkley.
“We face generational issues all the time at Blue Monarch,” she said.
Binkley encouraged parents and caregivers to engage in conversation with children.
Important topics include healthy boundaries with family members, friends and strangers, said Binkley. These one-on-one conversations, she said, can help strengthen relationships.
“Spending time together without the distraction of electrical devices and social media (is important),” Binkley said. “Being consistent and not parenting out of guilt and shame are two very important components to establishing a healthy parent-child relationship. The child needs a parent, not a friend.”
According to the health department, providing an open line of communication for a child gives a parent or guardian the opportunity to foster a healthy and nurturing relationship.
Research has found that good parent-child communication around sexuality has many positive effects for teens and helps them protect their own sexual health.
Good parent-child communication leads to better contraception use and lower sexual risk behaviors, according to the department.
Research has found that more teens would prefer to get information about contraceptives from their parents than from a health center, class, media or friends, according to Advocates for Youth, which is dedicated to sexuality education and the prevention of sexually transmitted disease.
According to the Advocates website, www.advocatesforyouth.org, programs exist to support parent-child communication and help strengthen the bond between parents and children and to ensure young people acquire the skills they need to protect themselves from unintended pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and HIV.
According to the health department, teen birth rates per 1,000 females aged 15-19 in Tennessee have decreased from 54 births in 2008 to 27 in 2017 due to prevention education programs in schools and communities across the state.
For more information and tips on how to start a conversation, visit www.tn.gov/health/health-program-areas/fhw/mch-tappp.html.
To learn more about teen pregnancy prevention, visit https://powertodecide.org/what-wedo/information/why-it-matters.